Educating Sports Entrepreneurs: Matching Theory to Practice

Abstract

Sports entrepreneurship courses are part of sports management programs because some students hope to own their own sports-oriented business, and major sports conglomerates look to hire employees with entrepreneurial skills. Sports management instructors prepare students for these challenges. However, not all sports entrepreneurship instructors have owned their own businesses nor worked for large sports corporations. As a result, this study was conducted to determine if sports entrepreneurship instructors and sports entrepreneurs agree on the content that should be taught in sports entrepreneurship courses in order to prepare students for the real-world.

Results of the study indicate that sports entrepreneurship instructors do agree on a set of content standards for sports entrepreneurship courses, specifically, the Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education National Content Standards (1). Additionally, when ranking the content skills, sports entrepreneurship instructors and sports entrepreneurs agreed on four of the five top skills students should be taught in order to be successful sports entrepreneurs.

Key Words: Sports Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurs, Sports Education, Sports Entrepreneurship Courses

Introduction

Sport management programs continue to grow in number. Since the first sport management program was developed at Ohio University in 1966, programs continue to spread across the United States and the world. According to the North American Society for Sport Management, there are more than 200 sport management programs in the United States alone (6). This growth has prompted a need for innovation within sport management curricula and the development of courses that are high quality, content-rich, and flexible.

The sports industry is the third largest industry in the United States, accounting for more than $213 billion dollars a year in revenues (3). Kurtzman (4) outlined the importance of sports tourism as the impetus for the pursuit of business entrepreneurship, economic impact, and profitability. He categorized sports tourism jobs into categories of events, resorts, cruises, tours and attractions – along with listed subgroups in those categories. These subgroups, such as sports events planning and sports tour operators, are areas that are ripe for entrepreneurial endeavors.

An industry as large as the sports industry requires educated people to run a variety of sports related businesses. However, it should not be assumed that sports entrepreneurs are only owners of professional sports franchises. The sports industry entails a variety of sub-businesses, both large and small. For example, there are owners of health club facilities, sports arena and facility operators, league owner/operators, sporting goods store owners, sports ticket agencies, and sport physical therapists – just to name a few. Sport management students take sport entrepreneurship courses in order to learn the skills that are necessary to operate these types of sport-related businesses.

On the other hand, sport management instructors are entrusted with preparing their students for jobs in sport-oriented businesses. It is up to them to develop effective curriculum that prepares students for careers in an industry that is constantly changing and evolving. However, not all sport entrepreneurship instructors have owned their own businesses nor worked for large sports corporations. Research into what type of content and skills sport entrepreneurship instructors are teaching was sorely needed.

This study was conducted to compare what sport entrepreneurship instructors and practicing sport entrepreneurs believe are the important skills necessary to teach sport entrepreneurship students in order to be successful in running sport-oriented businesses. It is relevant to sports entrepreneurship educators as well as students of sports management programs – in regards to gauging what is currently being taught in sports entrepreneurship courses.

Methods

There were two research populations for this study. The research populations included: 1) NASPE/NASSM instructors of sport entrepreneurship courses in college level sport management programs that are accredited by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and the North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM). 2) Sport entrepreneurs located throughout the United States in a variety of sports oriented businesses.

Two hundred and seventeen (217) sport management instructors were identified through their faculty web pages. However, it should be noted that this was not a complete list of sport entrepreneurship instructors, because there is no way to determine how many of these sport management instructors actually taught sport entrepreneurship courses. The instructors that were contacted, were all members of sport management programs, and taught sports management related courses at the time the data was gathered. However, all sport management programs do not have sport entrepreneurship courses, nor do all sport management professors teach sport entrepreneurship. Therefore, it was impossible to get an exact count of how many sport entrepreneurship instructors exist in NASPE/NASSM accredited sport management programs. Ultimately, 43 (N = 43) sport entrepreneurship instructors participated in the study.

The second research population consisted of 250 sport-oriented businesses. The researcher randomly selected four sport-oriented businesses in each of the fifty states in the United States of America. Small sport-oriented businesses were chosen, as opposed to utilizing owners of large sports conglomerates. This is because they represented a good mix of sport-oriented businesses and they were more indicative of the types of businesses that would have been opened by recently graduating sports management students. Ultimately 67 (N = 67) sport entrepreneurs participated in the study.

The research instruments that were used to conduct this study were two questionnaires that were developed and piloted by the researcher and reviewed by a panel of experts to achieve validity and reliability.

The questionnaires were administered via email and regular mail for both research populations. The questionnaires were made available over the Internet to maximize participation. The researcher created electronic versions of the questionnaires and administered them on the Internet using www.surveymonkey.com.

Results

The Instructor Group was comprised of 88.4% males and 11.6% females, with 60.4% of the overall population between the ages of 36 and 55. A doctorate or master’s degree was held by 72.1% of the population. 60.4% were associate or full professors. 88.4% had 5+ years of general teaching experience. 90.7% had some type of online teaching experience. 93% had some type of blended teaching experience. 81.4% taught in 4-year colleges or universities or in graduate programs. Finally, 79.1% had sports entrepreneurship courses as an elective at their respective institutions.

An analysis of the descriptive data of the Sport Entrepreneur Group was as follows. 85.1% of the Sport Entrepreneur Group were males whereas 14.9% were female. 68.6% were between the ages of 36 and 55. 82.1% had some type of college degree. Sporting goods store owners were the largest type of business represented by this group at 37%. 25.4% of the Sport Entrepreneur respondents were relatively new businesses that had been in existence less than five years. On the opposite end, 20.9% of the group had been in business for over 25 years. The largest legal structure was a sole proprietorship at 34.3%. 38.8% of the business had over $500,000 in revenues. 17.9% only had themselves as the only employee whereas 83.6% had anywhere up to 14 employees.

To address the question of whether there is a universal set of content standards in sports entrepreneurship courses, both groups were asked if they thought that CEE’s National Content Standards (1) (Appendix A) were a complete list of all of the skills and traits necessary for sports entrepreneurship students to learn in order to become successful business owners. The results were as follows:

Table 1.1 Are CEE’s National Content Standards Complete? (Instructors)

Yes or No Frequency Percent
Yes 41 95.3
No 2 4.7

Table 1.2 Are CEE’s National Content Standards Complete? (Sports Entrepreneurs)

Yes or No Frequency Percent
Yes 65 97.0
No 2 3.0

For further analysis, a Mann-Whitney U Test was conducted to see if there were any differences between the two groups with regard to the whether they believed CEE’s National Content Standards were a complete list of the skills and traits necessary for sports entrepreneurship students to learn in order to become successful business owners. This test was administered with a .05 significance level. As the results indicated, the two tailed, significance was .650 – representing that there was no significant difference between the two groups. Table 1.3 demonstrates the results of the Mann-Whiney U Test.

Table 1.3 CEE’s National Content Standards Both Groups

Is the CEE National Content Standards List Complete?
Mann-Whitney U 1416.500
Wilcoxon W 3694.500
Z -.453
Asymp. Sig. (2-tailed) .650

Grouping Variable: Instructor or Entrepreneur

Because the Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education’s 15 National Content Standards might be too ambitious to cover in just one sports management course, both groups were asked to rank the top five of the fifteen National Content Standards (1). This question is necessary because despite the course delivery mechanism (online, face-to-face), the top five content standards should be feasible to teach in any one course.

Table 1.4 Ranking of Top 5 Content Standards

Standards Group Rank #1 Rank #2 Rank #3 Rank #4 Rank #5 TOTAL %
Entrepreneurial Processes Instructors 11.6% 4.7% 2.3% 2.3% 4.7% 25.6%
Entrepreneurs 14.9% 6% 1.5% 1.5% 23.9%
Entrepreneurial Traits/Behaviors Instructors 7% 2.3% 2.3% 2.3% 14%
Entrepreneurs 3% 13.4% 4.5% 1.5% 22.4%
Business Foundations Instructors 9.3% 9.3% 11.6% 4.7% 7% 41.9%
Entrepreneurs 17.9% 7.5% 11.9% 1.5% 4.5% 43.3%
Communication/Interpersonal Skills Instructors 37.2% 14% 4.7% 7% 2.3% 65.1%
Entrepreneurs 38.8% 13.4% 14.9% 4.5% 4.5% 76.1%
Digital Skills Instructors 2.3% 2.3% 7% 4.7% 2.3% 18.6%
Entrepreneurs 1.5% 3% 7.5% 11.9%
Economics Instructors 2.3% 2.3% 4.7%
Entrepreneurs 3% 3% 1.5% 7.5%
Financial Literacy Instructors 4.7% 7% 14% 2.3% 4.7% 32.6%
Entrepreneurs 1.5% 7.5% 9% 4.5% 6% 28.4%
Professional Development Instructors 2.3% 2.3% 2.3% 4.7% 11.6%
Entrepreneurs 1.5% 4.5% 6%
Financial Management Instructors 14% 32.6% 9.3% 2.3% 58.1%
Entrepreneurs 9% 28.4% 14.9% 10.4% 3% 65.7%
Human Resource Management Instructors 7% 7% 9.3% 18.6% 41.9%
Entrepreneurs 7.5% 4.5% 10.4% 10.4% 32.8%
Information Management Instructors 2.3% 18.6% 16.3% 2.3% 39.5%
Entrepreneurs 4.5% 14.9% 1.5% 4.5% 25.4%
Marketing Management Instructors 4.7% 2.3% 9.3% 18.6% 23.3% 58.1%
Entrepreneurs 3% 7.5% 25.4% 19.4% 55.2%
Operations Management Instructors 2.3% 7% 16.3% 11.6% 37.2%
Entrepreneurs 4.5% 1.5% 23.9% 17.9% 47.8%
Risk Management Instructors 2.3% 2.3% 14% 18.6%
Entrepreneurs 1.5% 1.5% 3% 10.4% 16.4%
Strategic Management Instructors 9.3% 2.3% 2.3% 2.3% 16.3%
Entrepreneurs 1.5% 3% 3% 6% 13.4%

Table 1.4 indicates the individual content standard, along with the responses for the two research groups. Table 1.4 also indicates the percentage rankings of each content standard. The top five from both groups were: communication and interpersonal skills, financial management, marketing management, and business foundations. The two groups only differed in one of the top five areas. The instructor group listed human resources management in their top five, whereas the sports entrepreneur group listed operations management in their top five.

It is also interesting to note that the bottom three standards that both research groups felt were the least needed skills and traits were: Professional Development, Economics, and Digital Skills.

An Independent Samples T-test was conducted to compare the Instructor Group and Sport Entrepreneur Group rankings of the National Content Standards on an individual basis (Table 1.5). The Independent Samples T-test illustrated Levene’s Test of Quality Variance, a significance level, and a significance level for a two tailed test. The results indicated that there was significance in three of the fifteen National Content Standards: Digital Skills, Financial Management, and Strategic Management. This was determined by looking at the Sig. (two-tailed) column and finding the results that are below the 0.05 alpha level. SPSS provides two different statistics to choose from, depending on whether or not equal variances are assumed. One must look at the Sig. column first in order to determine if the numbers under the equal variances assumed, or equal variances not assumed row is to be used. If the Sig. level is over 0.05, then equal variances are assumed – so one would use the results in that row under the Sig. (two tailed) column.

Table 1.5 Independent T-test for Individual Rankings for Both Groups

Levene’s Test for Equality of Variances t-test for Equality of Means
F Sig. t Df Sig. (2-tailed) Mean Diff. Std. Error Diff. 95% Confidence Interval of the Difference
Lower Upper
Entrepreneurial Processes Equal variances assumed 4.112 .053 1.417 25 .169 .74 .521 -.335 1.812
Equal variances not assumed 1.315 16.063 .207 .74 .561 -.451 1.929
Entrepreneurial Traits Equal variances assumed 2.768 .113 1.783 19 .091 .80 .449 -.139 1.739
Equal variances not assumed 1.445 6.560 .195 .80 .554 -.527 2.127
Business Foundation Equal variances assumed .014 .908 1.321 45 .193 .54 .406 -.282 1.354
Equal variances not assumed 1.305 34.784 .200 .54 .411 -.298 1.371
Communication/Interpersonal Skills Equal variances assumed .138 .712 -.558 77 .579 -.16 .285 -.727 .409
Equal variances not assumed -.563 57.181 .576 -.16 .283 -.725 .407
Digital Skills Equal variances assumed .855 .371 -2.668 14 .018 -1.38 .515 -2.480 -.270
Equal variances not assumed -2.668 11.536 .021 -1.38 .515 -2.503 -.247
Economics Equal variances assumed 2.959 .146 2.023 5 .099 2.10 1.038 -.569 4.769
Equal variances not assumed 2.689 3.921 .056 2.10 .781 -.086 4.286
Financial Literacy Equal variances assumed .167 .686 -.816 31 .421 -.35 .433 -1.237 .530
Equal variances not assumed -.816 28.129 .422 -.35 .433 -1.241 .534
Professional Development Equal variances assumed .036 .854 -.482 7 .644 -.45 .933 -2.657 1.757
Equal variances not assumed -.474 6.062 .652 -.45 .950 -2.769 1.869
Financial Management Equal variances assumed 8.228 .006 -2.248 67 .028 -.55 .243 -1.030 -.061
Equal variances not assumed -2.460 63.283 .017 -.55 .222 -.989 -.102
Human Resources Management Equal variances assumed .012 .914 .588 38 .560 .22 .369 -.530 .965
Equal variances not assumed .588 36.452 .560 .22 .369 -.531 .966
Information Management Equal variances assumed .311 .581 .804 32 .427 .24 .293 -.361 .831
Equal variances not assumed .804 29.471 .428 .24 .293 -.363 .833
Marketing Management Equal variances assumed 1.631 .207 -.474 60 .638 -.13 .283 -.700 .432
Equal variances not assumed -.455 44.500 .651 -.13 .294 -.727 .459
Operations Management Equal variances assumed .002 .967 -.575 46 .568 -.16 .272 -.703 .391
Equal variances not assumed -.573 29.788 .571 -.16 .273 -.714 .401
Risk Management Equal variances assumed .080 .780 .316 17 .756 .19 .612 -1.098 1.485
Equal variances not assumed .324 16.506 .750 .19 .596 -1.066 1.453
Strategic Management Equal variances assumed .459 .509 -3.031 14 .009 -2.00 .660 -3.415 -.585
Equal variances not assumed -2.910 10.654 .015 -2.00 .687 -3.518 -.482

As demonstrated by the Independent Samples T-test, there was significance in Digital Skills, Financial Management, and Strategic Management. The significance levels for these content standards were: 0.018, 0.017 and 0.009 respectively. When consulting Table 1.4, it revealed that a larger percentage of the Instructor Group respondents thought that Digital Skills and Strategic Management were more important than the Sports Entrepreneur Group did. Conversely, a larger percentage of the Sports Entrepreneur respondents believed that Financial Management was more important than the Instructor Group believed it to be.

In order to be able to analyze the data and come to any conclusions, one needs to take a closer look at the descriptive data of each research group. It is interesting that the percentages of the gender and ages were pretty close for both respondent groups. Another important figure to note was the high percentage of respondents who indicated that sports entrepreneurship was an elective within their programs. The hardest part of this study to get a handle on was just how many sports management programs offered sports entrepreneurship courses. This high percentage indicated that sports entrepreneurship courses are being offered, but are not required.

For the Sport Entrepreneur Group, it was interesting to see that they were highly educated with college degrees. This is indicative of many entrepreneurs despite what most people may think. Entrepreneurs are often seen as uneducated, risk takers that started businesses because they did not like school, and that was just not the case for the sports entrepreneurs in this study. The Sport Entrepreneur group had a good mix of relatively new businesses and businesses with over 25 years of experience. This makes the results even more interesting because new business owners often make mistakes, and seasoned business owners may have learned from their earlier mistakes.

The 17.9% of the respondents in the Sport Entrepreneur Group that had only one employee is significant. This was an important finding for future research because many of the National Content Standards had skills and traits listed that might not necessarily have corresponded to one employee businesses. For example, if a business only has one employee then a skill like Human Resources Management might not have been beneficial for that business owner to learn. Additionally, for the sport entrepreneurs who made higher revenues, perhaps skills like Financial Management or Economics were more important to them and their business then it was to the small, low-income business.

The results of this study indicate that instructors of sports entrepreneurship courses and sports entrepreneurs agreed on the type of content that should be addressed in a sports entrepreneurship course. The Mann-Whitney U Test performed on the two research groups indicated that there was no significant difference between the groups with regard to how they responded to whether or not CEE’s National Content Standards were all of the skills and traits necessary to be learned in order for sports entrepreneurship students to become successful sports entrepreneurs. This is important for sports entrepreneurship instructors to note when planning course content.

The ranking of the content standards was necessary to show how each group felt about the importance of teaching or learning each individual content standard. Oftentimes, the amount of time it takes to administer an entire sports entrepreneurship course varied. For example, a three credit sports entrepreneurship course at a community college may have been thirty six hours long, whereas a four-year institution may have met for forty-five hours. If both research groups agreed to the top five content standards, then the rankings could have been used by instructors to guarantee that they covered the most important content standards, regardless of the amount of hours required to administer a course.

The results from the ranking of the National Content Standards indicated that each respondent group agreed on four of the five most important content standards: Communication and Interpersonal Skills, Financial Management, Marketing Management, and Business Foundations. The respondent groups did not agree on the fifth most important skill or trait. The Sports Entrepreneurs indicated that Operations Management was the fifth most important skill or trait, whereas the Instructor Group indicated that Human Resource Management was on of the top five most important skills or traits.

Despite the lack of agreement on the fifth most important content standard the results indicated that four of CEE’s National Content Standards were very important to both of these research groups. These results should also aid sports entrepreneurship instructors in planning their course content, especially when limited to teaching only one sports entrepreneurship course and not multiple courses. Although instructors should have no problem teaching more than five topics in one particular sports entrepreneurship course, these results also indicated that all of CEE’s National Content Standards do not have to be taught in order to prepare students to become sports entrepreneurs.

The Independent Samples T-test indicated that there were significant differences between the two research groups in the content areas of: Digital Skills, Financial Management, and Strategic Management. A further analysis of these results indicated that a larger percentage of the Instructor Group thought that Digital Skills and Strategic Management were worthy enough to be included in the top five most important content standards. This was consistent with their wanting to teach more of CEE’s National Content Standards than the Sports Entrepreneurs Group felt was necessary.

The differences between the two research groups in the Financial Management content standard simply indicated that a larger percentage of the Sports Entrepreneurs believed that Financial Management was more important than the Instructor Group believed it to be. It should be noted that 58.1% of the Instructor Group did have Financial Management as a top five most important content standard and that was good enough for that group to be the second most important content standard.

Applications in Sport

This study is relevant to all sports management educators that teach sports entrepreneurship courses. If you are a sports entrepreneurship instructor, then it is up to you to review this study in order to better understand what sports entrepreneurs do on a daily basis. Not every sports entrepreneurship instructor has had the opportunity to be a sports entrepreneur, so one might not be exactly sure of the content that should be taught future sports entrepreneurs. However, this study shows the relevant content sports entrepreneurship instructors should be teaching their students on a daily basis. This study focused on the practice of sports entrepreneurs and identified what skills and traits are needed in the field. All sports entrepreneurship instructors should look at this study and utilize the results for the benefit of their students.

Acknowledgments

The author would like to acknowledge all of the participants, both sports management professors and sports entrepreneurs, for taking the time out of their busy schedules to participate in this study.

References

Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education, National Content Standards for Entrepreneurship Education. Retrieved October 30, 2009, from http://www.entre-ed.org/Standards_Toolkit/standards_summary.htm

Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education, (2001). Entrepreneurship everywhere: A guide to resources and models for entrepreneurship education. Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education, Columbus, OH.

Howard, D., & Crompton, J. (2004). Financing sport, Fitness Information Technology, Morgantown, WV.

Kurtzman, J. (2005). Sports tourism categories, Journal of Sport Tourism, Vol. 10, No.1, p. 15-20.

Sport Management Program Review Council, (2000) Sport management program standards and review protocol, Reston, VA: National Association for Sport and Physical Education.

The North American Society for Sports Management website. All data retrieved on November 20, 2009 from: www.nassm.com.

Corresponding Author

Dr. Anthony Borgese: aborgese@kingsborough.edu